By Chris Le
I expect the NBA Draft to be a wild one. I wouldn’t be surprised if there are more than a few head-scratching selections and/or multiple trades, even at the top, involving some possible big names.
But I’m not here to predict the details of such happenings or even the selections themselves. I’m sure you’ve already seen a million mocks drafts already; putting forth another one would be overkill and plus, they’re usually pretty inaccurate of how the real thing pans out anyway. So throw out draft order or a team’s needs because these are just my 10 best players available.
1. Derrick Rose, PG, Memphis – Rose has the size (6’1, 195) and physical attributes to be as good, if not better than the likes of Chris Paul, Deron Williams, and Tony Parker. With an extremely quick first-step and even greater top speed, he can excel in an up-tempo offense but still has the strength, court-vision and play-making ability—for himself and his teammates—to orchestrate the half-court. But like most point guard prospects, he needs to work on his jumper and his ability to lead. I still haven’t seen that mean streak I see in CP3. And then there are those free throws…But you can’t pass up the chance at a dominant point guard. NBA Comparison: Dwyane Wade with a little bit of Jason Kidd.
2. Michael Beasley, PF, Kansas State – His skill set and natural feel for the game make him the best overall player in the draft. Has the ability to score from anywhere on the court and showed to be a terrific rebound. But the question will be if he can do in the NBA what he did in college, where he had an insurmountable strength advantage. His lack of freakishly explosive athleticism and size (he’s only 6’8), which is usually seen in a top-2 pick, could hinder his NBA success. NBA Comparison: A Carmelo Anthony who likes the paint.
3. O.J. Mayo, G, USC – It seems in any draft there’s one player who is initially projected to go high, only to see his stock crumble for some reason during the off season but ends up going high anyway. Mayo was the number-one pick most of his career, but a slightly disappointing stint at USC and some character issues made some scouts skeptical. Those same critics have finally seen through all the bullshit and realize Mayo is an All-Star in the making. Though undersized, his game is highly developed and routinely makes difficult shots look easy. A very cerebral scorer, but he won’t blow you away, at times settling for tough looks, and his defense needs improvement. Still, I think he’s a no-brainer at number 3. NBA Comparison: A more athletic Brandon Roy with a greater scoring tendency.
4. Jerryd Bayless, PG, Arizona – I don’t know why this kid didn’t get much publicity in college, but he was killing the Pac-10 on the regular. He’s incredibly explosive, has NBA range, and a gorgeous pull-up jumper. Though his scoring ability is potentially game-changing, he needs to develop his court vision and distributing acumen. At Arizona, he sometimes was overly aggressive, leaving him no outs but to jack up a bad shot. He doesn’t give you much else besides scoring, but it’s one hell of a dimension. NBA Comparison: Point guard version of Monta Ellis.
5. Eric Gordon, SG, Indiana – I can’t believe people doubt this kid. And why? Because of a second half slump? I’m not sure anyone could keep up an elite level of play after losing their head coach halfway through their freshman season. And that’s not mentioning the sprained wrist he suffered. But slump or not, Gordon proved to me that he has the potential to be the best scorer in this draft. He is thick so he’ll be able to finish around the rim against the league’s big defenders and yet also has a first-step that’ll leave defenders spinning. He’s got NBA range and showed some defensive desire, which is impressive on the college level. Not much more you can ask for in a two-guard, except for improved shot selection, 3 more inches in height and better passing. NBA Comparison: Ben Gordon. Times two.
6. Kevin Love, PF, UCLA – Love is my kind of player: old school, highly fundamental, tough-as-nails in the middle, and not the least bit afraid of looking ugly as long as it’s effective. Many view his sub-par athleticism, quickness and overall pudginess as red flags, but I think his strong rebounding, quickly developing jump shot and his uncanny passing more than offset his shortcomings. All this combined with his physical strength and high basketball IQ will make him a great bench player, if not a serviceable starter. NBA Comparison: Poor man’s Bill Walton/David West.
This is where I think the cream separates from the crop. I pretty much love at least one thing about the above prospects. But with the following players, while nice, I don’t see as much potential.
7. Russell Westbrook, SG, UCLA – Nobody’s stock is rising faster. He wasn’t the most productive college player but is an undeniably great athlete who can become a lock-down defender down the line. From what I saw during the season, while still a little raw and needs honing—particularly his ball handling and shooting—he does many things well but doesn’t excel at one particular area. I think he’s got the game of a two-guard, but his size will be a concern. He probably projects as a point in the league, where an athlete like him should be fine. NBA Comparison: Leandro Barbosa.
8. Brook Lopez, C, Stanford – Finally, we get to a 7-foot prospect. They say you can’t teach height, but to a certain extent, you can’t really teach quickness and dexterity either. While at Stanford, Lopez showed a nice knack for scoring, displaying a sweet-for-his-size jumper and admirable effort on defense, but it’s hard to ignore his almost lumbering footwork. A little robotic in his movement, but that didn’t seem to hamper him from producing big numbers in college. Though, what’s with the .468 shooting percentage? I think he’s a project that could be overwhelmed in his first couple of seasons. NBA Comparison: Spencer Hawes with slightly better defense.
9. D.J. Augustin, PG, Texas – Perhaps the best pure point guard in college basketball last year. The kid can score, has nice handles and the best passing skills/court vision in the draft at the moment. He also has a winning attitude which many coaches will tell you isn’t very easy to attain. The only thing holding him back is his diminutive stature. At 5’11, he’ll have trouble when the big bodies bump him, particularly on the defensive end. Though other prospects may be bigger and more athletic, he’s a proven commodity. NBA Comparison: Jameer Nelson.
10. Brandon Rush, SF, Kansas –Projected as a shooting guard, there isn’t much Rush can’t do. I love his length (6’6 with a 6’11 wingspan), which along with his lateral quickness will help him develop into a solid defender. If he puts in some off season elbow grease and shows desire, I see Rush as an eventual decade-long starter. Maybe not an All-Star, but he’ll have a nice career. NBA Comparison: Eddie Jones.